SEO — A 3x3 Guide In Simple Terms…

My attempt to distil my thoughts about on-page SEO down to three 3-part chunks…

You might think Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a dark art or something best left to web content writers with ninja skills. In the past, it’s certainly been portrayed as such. The truth is it’s not, but you do have to put in some work.

There are more articles online now about SEO than needles on the cactus plant on my windowsill. There’s a wealth of shared knowledge out there.

In a nutshell, when you do a search on Google, it applies algorithms that analyse content across the entire web and determine which pages should show up first in your list of results. The art of SEO is to get websites to feature as high up this results list as possible.

SEO is basically about three things:

Keywords

The particular words that you and your audience/customers use in relation to your product or service. More specifically, we are looking for the words people use in search engines to find you, or related words that are more specific about your service.

This could simply be your product type (e.g. Salary Processing, Fitness Workout or Content Writing), and one or two other words related to it (e.g. creative, high-burn, awesome, specialist, sales, etc…).

You also might want to think in terms of ‘long tail’ keywords — which is in fact a phrase more specific to your business. Using ‘craft beer’ will appeal to a bunch of enthusiasts, but using ‘craft beer with hops from Brazil’ will appeal to a specific niche much more. Less people will be searching for it, but those that do find your site are far more likely to want your product. It’s a trade off.

Content

Having the right words is one thing. Using them well is another. Google favours text that is written in a coherent, easy-to-understand way that makes sense to a reader.

But, as well as the style it is written in, Google also gauges the text’s popularity, so if you have written about a popular subject in a bright, succinct and compelling manner, then this will help you rank higher in searches.

The right voice

This is related to the Content rule above, but instead of appealing to a Google algorithm, it’s your actual target reader that you are aiming to appeal to. If people read words they want to see, phrased in the way that they would use themselves, then your audience is more likely to click through.

And Google’s algorithms also take notice when a site gets more clicks, so it cycles back and Google favours your page. Win again.

So where can you can find this goldmine of data?

Three places:

Google Analytics

If you haven’t yet explored Google Analytics, then you should, but you’ll need to embed some code on each web page you want to study first. This is easy, as Google tells you how. You’ll need to allow some time to pass (perhaps 2–4 weeks, depending on traffic volume) so that you actually have some results to look at.

The feedback is enlightening and will give you the lowdown on what keywords your customers are using, as well which pages they favour and how long they are staying on each page (or not staying). This is the data equivalent of the crown jewels, and can change how you do business, as well as what you prioritise on your website.

Don’t fret if you don’t have Google Analytics data right now. There are two other easy ways to determine what words to use, and the language and tone to go with them:

Organic search results

Yup, the good old Google search process. By searching on your field, topic, company name, etc, you can spot patterns in the results and this can inform what words you need to use. Also think about related fields, industry topics and phrases, and look at what words you find from search results on them too.

Finally, you’ll notice that Google will auto-complete your searches as you type. The words Google inserts, and those added in ‘Related Searches’ at the bottom of the page, come from other popular searches, so you should take note there as well. It’s all valuable info.

Studying social media

This takes more work, but it can really pay off. Search for your subject matter on Facebook, see what groups or people come up, and there is your data set (as well as potential target market).

You’ll get see which patterns and words crop up more often, but also you’ll get to learn the tone of voice, how your customers are talking to each other, and what terms they are using.

What are people always discussing? What are their problems, what questions are they asking, and how are people responding? What’s getting likes? What’s your target’s use of slang? What are sentences like? Are they shouting, back-patting, dryly informing or scoring points? You’ll really be able to get a grip on their language patterns and use it to speak to them.

(And also, let’s not forget: what images or videos are your potential customers sharing? Understanding this can unlock a further layer of material for your own web content — but maybe this is for another article…)

Where are you going to use all these words and terms you’ve discovered?

Let me guess, it’s a list of three again:

Page content copy

Headings and body text, bullet points, micro-copy, blog posts, checkout dialogue, sign-up forms, headlines, the works. SEO is a philosophy than can be applied to everything in your website content.

Meta-descriptions

These are the brief summaries about pages that you see underneath the Google search results, usually 135–160 characters in length.

If you don’t tailor one, then Google will simply pull the piece of text containing the search keyword out of your copy and use that. So don’t leave it to chance: create one yourself, make it persuasive and make it fun.

Page title tags

This is what appears in the website tab at the top of your browser window. Often, a few default words are inserted — usually the company name and a word about the page (e.g: ‘Breathtaking Solutions — Home’). There are a bunch of WordPress plugins that automatically grab words from your text for the page tag.

Customising the words on these tags, even just a small tweak to include a keyword or phrase, will help you show up higher in search results and get more click-throughs (e.g. ‘Making Your Life Easy Again — Call Now’)

Other free tools to help optimise your website copy are also available (and I’m sure I’m proverbially telling my granny how to suck eggs here):

WordPress focus keywords

If you are using WordPress, then make use of this SEO plug-in from Yoast that analyses your content and offers direct advice. They are quite a techy bunch, but it’s all solid — this article of theirs details it perfectly: https://yoast.com/focus-keyword/

Screaming Frog SEO Spider— https://www.screamingfrog.co.uk/seo-spider/

Very cool and convenient free tool that crawls web pages and analyses many other elements as well as the copy. If you can handle jargon, then this is a great tool for you.

SEMRush — https://www.semrush.com/

A very powerful tool to check what keywords your website (and your competitors’ sites) is ranking for, and a whole load of other subsidiary words that people are searching on in your field. Then, bang, you can use them in your own website copy.

Your Competitors’ sites

Yup, take a look at what they are doing. Because they’ll either have been doing the same as you (which will show), or not (which you’ll also be able to spot!). I’m not saying copy their text, but it could help to see how you can improve, and how to differentiate what you offer while competing for important words.

In conclusion…

The general rule is: don’t over-think it. If you’re using the same words, vocabulary and tone as your target audience, then you will pretty much be equipping your page content for SEO.

The days of simply plugging in keywords into your text as many times as feasible are long-gone, and we all know that Google will penalise you for keyword-stuffing and spammy copy.

Use a few words carefully, in a well-crafted way that will appeal to your audience so they feel drawn to your page, and you’re onto something. And finding one specialised keyword that suits you particularly well, in conjunction with a more general keyword for your field, will really help.

Finally — don’t sweat it if you’re not absolute #1 in the search results — do you click on the top result all the time? No, you scan down the list to see one that appeals to you most, that’s well-written and speaks your language. That site might not get top ranking, but it will get more clicks. Which is what you want, isn’t it? :)

Originally published on my website blog at http://www.lookherewriting.com/blog/

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